SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. –-At its September 11th meeting, the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to support Proposition 35: The Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act (CASE Act). Proposition 35 would change California law related to the crime of human trafficking. The measure would add new crimes to the list of criminal violations that may be associated with human trafficking, toughen penalties imposed against those convicted of the crime, protect the rights of trafficked victims, and require registered sex offenders to disclose their Internet account information to law enforcement.
“Santa Clara County has zero tolerance when it comes to crimes that exploit and violate basic human rights,” said President George Shirakawa, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors and Chair of the Public Safety and Justice Committee. “This measure would provide very important tools for local law enforcement to better safeguard human trafficking victims.”
Human trafficking involves controlling a person through force, fraud, or coercion to use the victim for forced labor, sexual exploitation, or both. It strips people, especially women and children, of their freedom and violates their basic human rights. Human trafficking can involve the crossing of international borders or may occur entirely within the United States. Because of the hidden nature of the crime, it is difficult to estimate the number of victims, but federal reports indicate the number in the United States to be around 14,500 to 17,500 annually.
“The County has a long standing history of advocating for human rights,” said Supervisor Liz Kniss, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors and Chair of the Legislative Committee. “This measure will give law enforcement more tools to protect some of the most vulnerable members of society and make our communities safer for everyone.”
The measure would amend the definition of a sex trafficking crime involving minors such that, similar to federal law, it would no longer be necessary for the crime to involve force or coercion in order for it to be considered human trafficking. Sex trafficking of minors that involved actions such as force or fraud would be punishable by up to a life term in prison. In addition to expanding the definition of human trafficking, the CASE Act also would impose more severe penalties on those convicted of the crime as well as monetary fines. Proposition 35 would provide assistance to victims of human trafficking. The funds collected from the fines would be deposited into the Victim-Witness Assistance Fund to support services for victims of human trafficking.
Proposition 35 also would tighten the current registration process for convicted sex offenders by requiring them to provide any Internet identifiers and service providers they use such as e-mail addresses, user names, screen names, or other personal identifiers for Internet communication and activity. It also would require that law enforcement be notified of any changes to this information within 24 hours.
Proposition 35 makes some changes to criminal procedures that help protect the rights of human trafficking victims. Evidence of sexual conduct by a victim would be inadmissible for the purpose of attacking the victim’s credibility in court. Also, the measure would make certain defenses to the criminal prosecution of human trafficking, such as a claim that the minor consented to the illegal activities, invalid.
Finally, the measure requires that all police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and California Highway Patrol officers who perform field or investigative work receive two hours of training in the handling of human trafficking complaints. This training would have to be completed by January 1, 2014, or within six months of the officer being assigned to the position.
The fiscal effects of Proposition 35 are uncertain. According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), human trafficking cases are often prosecuted under federal law, but they may involve multiple jurisdictions and agencies during the investigation process. Therefore, it is unknown whether the expanded definition of human trafficking would significantly increase the number of state human trafficking arrests and convictions or whether most such cases would continue to be handled primarily by federal law enforcement agencies. Despite this, local governments may realize an increase in law enforcement training costs as well as a minor increase in local corrections costs.
Both the Santa Clara County Office of Human Relations and the District Attorney’s Office support Proposition 35.
Background of Existing Law
State law defines human trafficking as violating the liberty of a person with the intent to either (1) obtain forced labor services or (2) commit certain felony crimes (such as pandering or prostitution). Human trafficking is punishable by a state prison sentence of up to five years, or up to eight years if the victim is under the age of 18. Under existing laws, most offenders convicted of sex crimes, including some crimes involving human trafficking, are required to register as sex offenders with the local law enforcement agency of the area in which they reside for the rest of their lives.
Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Shirley Zackor, Office of Public Affairs(408) 299-5119
Posted: September 13, 2012